A lot of DMM Games fans had been excited ever since the first teaser PV of their planned game was released; yep, Bungou to Alchemist is another incarnation simulation game published by DMM Games, who had previously also released the extremely popular Kantai Collection (KanColle) and Touken Ranbu (Tourabu). Those who are familiar with DMM Games’ releases could definitely imagine what sort of game this would be.
With its roster of beautiful writer-boys, it is rather obvious that Bungou to Alchemist is aimed at the female audience. When I took a quick look at the still small but growing fandom for this game, a lot of Touken Ranbu players seem to be interested or even have started playing Bungou to Alchemist. Additionally, as the theme for this game is literary writers, it also seems to have enticed interests from people who are into Japanese literature.
If you’ve tried your hands at one of DMM Games’ release before, or if you’re interested in the history of Japanese literature, Bungou to Alchemist offers a very fun and rather challenging gaming experience with a very appealing visual-auditory. Be careful, especially for you guys who like to hoard things—this game might just be more addictive than you could ever expected!
What to Expect
If you’re familiar with other DMM Games’ releases, you’d probably know what to expect from a game with a genre titled “incarnation simulation”. Yep, if Kantai Collection gives you ship-incarnate girls and Touken Ranbu gives you sword-incarnate boys, then Bungou to Alchemist gives you the experience of calling male Japanese literary writers back to life.
I personally like to call these games “a game of collecting”, because at the core of everything, that’s what the players will be doing: in this case, collecting literary boys and unlocking their personal extras as you level and strengthen them up by sending them to battles and “blooming” them. Just like other DMM Games’ releases, Bungou to Alchemist battle gameplay does not differ much: the battle is automatic, and if you bring the right writers to the right battleground (in this case, book), you could also unlock a Recollection.
The most exciting thing about Bungou to Alchemist that appeal to its audience, perhaps more than Touken Ranbu had initially been, is its gorgeous visual (both character designs and backgrounds) and the impressive seiyuu line-up who voices the literary writers. More than half of the seiyuu listed are pretty much the top-echelons of the industry, and most of them are extremely popular, especially for people who are into the otome genre. You could expect a handsome Dazai Osamu voiced by Nakamura Yuuichi, or the beautiful Izumi Kyouka voiced by Kamiya Hiroshi! If you could get your hands on them, of course.
When you began playing Bungou to Alchemist, I would highly suggest that you click and go through the Prologue, even if you can’t read Japanese. It gives you a short tutorial as well as a better sense of what you’re actually doing. If you could read Japanese, however, do make sure that you read through the Prologue, because it offers a well-crafted world-building and background story before you jump into the game.
The premise of Bungou to Alchemist is a diverged timeline of Japan. The peaceful, modern, and elegant Japan, whose people appreciate the culture and ideologies born out of literary works is suddenly threatened with an unusual phenomenon: all literary works are suddenly turning into black, and people’s memories of them begin to disappear. The cause of this phenomenon are beings called Taints, created out of negative emotions, who had set out to destroy the worlds inside of books by corroding them. Once a book is corroded, it would vanish from people’s memories.
In order to cleanse these corroded books of Taints, it is necessary to call existences who could “delve” into the book and cleanse them. Who better to call upon other than the very masters of these literary works themselves? You, the player, are an Alchemist called forth to the National Library to protect literary works, and are tasked to transmigrate the literary writers from the ensouled books, who would then proceed to “delve” into the books and battle the Taints.
The Prologue would lead you to meet the Chief Librarian and the nameless cat who calls itself “wagahai” (an interesting shoutout to one of Souseki’s works), and the two of them would guide you through the entire library. Through the short tutorial on transmigration, you’d receive Tokuda Shuusei, the first writer who would delve into one of the Tainted books, and then you could just sit back and watch the rather amusing (and highly intriguing) story unfold as we get a glimpse of Izumi Kyouka helping us (and bantering with Shuusei, mostly). The Main Story would then continue from there, and you’ll get full control to explore and try out various parts of the gameplay!
Like other DMM Games’ releases, Bungou to Alchemist begins with choosing your starter! There are four literary writers available for you to choose—all of them are sword-users and are of normal-rarity, commonly called Beige Writers by the players. Since I’m not very knowledgeable about Japanese literature and my main motivation to start this game was for the impressive seiyuu line-up, I decided to be shallow and blindly chose Oda Sakunosuke because he’s voiced by Onosaka Masaya (with Osaka-ben! I must have been very good last year). We enter the library, now with Oda as my secretary, ready to greet me any time with various lines. There’s a short tutorial, which includes transmigration, how to form a team to delve into the books, book delving process, nourishing the writers, blossoming the writers, and a tour of the shop.
If you’ve decided to skip the Prologue, don’t worry, you’ll still have Tokuda Shuusei sitting in the library, and you’ll see him once you get into the Transmigration section. Transmigration is very similar to the forging of a sword in Touken Ranbu, but the mechanics this time is very different. As an alchemist, you will have to transmigrate more literary writers by having a writer you already owned delve into an ensouled book, in order to move out the soul of the new writer and put them in a new physical body. So first, you choose the writer you want to send delving into the ensouled book (you can’t send your secretary). Then you could choose the resources: three options of quantity of ink you could use: 50, 100, and 400. You could also choose to use a bookmark to increase the chance of getting a writer with high rarity (either silver or gold), and if you don’t want to sit back for hours waiting for the new writer to appear, you could use the limited amount of time governor that you own.
You’ll be able to get new writers either from transmigrating them or they might drop in the battlefield when you send a team to delve into the Tainted books. You can form a team consisting of four writers—and this is where it gets a bit tricky in the name of strategy. Keep in mind that writers have four different types of weapons: sword, gun, bow, and whip. They have different stats, so there are pros and cons in putting them in your team depending of the type of the enemies you’d be facing when you delve into a Tainted book. If, like me, you’re the type of player who would wince and send your team home the second one of your writers’ HP (or corrosion tolerance value, in this case) gets below thirty, it’s a good idea to spend a lot of time thinking about how to form your team.
The battle gameplay is fairly straightforward. It’s automatic, which, this time, I appreciate a lot because the background visuals are amazingly pretty. Each book has several nodes, and you’ll encounter either the Taints (different types depending which book you delve into) or your writers would bring back resources for you, which you’d need to blossom them and raise their skills. Some of the Tainted books have certain requirements that would increase your chance to reach the boss node, which are usually hinted by the end of the book if you fail to get to the boss node. Bringing certain group of writers together into certain book would also give you a Recollection, which would touch a bit on their history and characters.
Once your team of writers is done delving into the Tainted books and fighting the Taints, it is important to visit the Cafeteria and feed them. No, not feed in the sense of “feeding them other writers” that you might be familiar with in Touken Ranbu—I meant feeding them with actual rice balls to restore the writers’ stamina. If you neglected this, their performance on the battlefield would drop significantly! Don’t forget to take your wounded writers into the Repairs section, in which you could fix them with a required amount of ink and time. However, there is only one slot of bed available if you don’t want to (or can’t) spend actual money to buy DMM points and unlock more slots, so you’ll have to be patient.
Now to the fun part: blossoming your writers! This is where you improve the stats of your writers—it’s funny to note that this mechanic is more similar to the mechanic of blossoming in Ensemble Stars. As you can see in the picture below, you’d get to choose the path of your writer by deciding which node to improve on: technique, talent, aesthetic, and realism. On your way to blossom them, you could unlock either a writer’s voice clips (yes, this is what I have been waiting for) and special costumes. Of course, you can only progress and improve the node right next to the one you have previously improved before.
You can gather resources—ink, rice balls, et cetera—through a number of ways. Among them is of course by going to battles, automatic regeneration until your resource reaches the limit, doing “researches” which are basically quests and getting the rewards, maintenance compensation, and through receiving letters from writers of the Chief Librarian and the Cat. While you’re exploring the gameplay, don’t forget to drop by your office and check out the Writer’s Register to read information on your writers! You can also view their recollections and listen to their voice clips here once you unlocked them.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Like the other DMM Games’ releases, Bungou to Alchemist requires patience and steadfast determination and dedication if you want the full enjoyment of what this game has to offer. A lot of the aspects of its gameplay are similar to other DMM Games’ releases, so those who are used to it would have less problem navigating the game. This review, however, could only gloss over the overall complexity of the gameplay, putting aside various campaigns and events that have started, so if your curiosity is in any way enticed, it’s better for you to experience it yourself.
I have mentioned earlier about how the visual-auditory aspects of this game is simply amazing: the backgrounds both in the library and in the Tainted books are breathtaking, the music is super nice--though I’m one of the players who sometimes mute the music in favor of listening to the seiyuus’ voices clearly--and the character designs are very attractive. However, in order to unlock all the extras and to get the writers you want, you’ll have to be patient and spend a lot of time playing this game.
Well-built world and backstory.
A lot of interesting small details.
A+ seiyuu line-up.
Very fun campaigns, events and extras.
Learn more of Japanese literature history!
Only in Japanese (as of January 2016).
Fewer slot in Repairs.
The challenging gameplay might scare new players.
It takes a long while to completely explore the possibilities that the game has.
Honey's Final Verdict:
So, is Bungou to Alchemist fun? Is it interesting? Is it worth the time spent and dedicated to playing? The answer is yes. If you are very much into other DMM Games’ releases such as Kantai Collection and Touken Ranbu, I imagine you’d enjoy Bungou to Alchemist as well.
I have to admit though, Bungou to Alchemist is a bit more challenging compared to Touken Ranbu, which I have been playing for two years now. Having one slot in Repairs is making things twice as difficult, even if the writers’ repair times are considerably shorter. Keeping all your writers nourished as well as making sure you have enough rice balls to feed them all is an additional challenge. Hoarding resources necessary to bloom the writers requires going and repeating your battles countlessly especially in your first few levels. However, it also doubles the satisfaction of reaching your goals, so those who prefer more challenges in their games would love Bungou to Alchemist. [Picture 14]
Being a player who hasn’t had a lot of time to dedicate to Bungou to Alchemist—yes, I’ve been dividing my attention to other similar games, sue me—I personally am looking forward to the extras the game provides that I haven’t discovered yet. So far, my favorite thing about this game other than the impressive seiyuu line-up is the game’s details in nuances and amazing world-building that really adds to the enjoyment and experience of playing it. For example, the fact that instead of the usual HP and MP vocabularies, Bungou to Alchemist used (shinsoku) and (kourin), which the fandom has translated into corrosion and epiphany. There’s also way more interactions among writers you can see in the game, which really serves to make pique your interest in looking up the history of these writers and their works properly.
If you’re interested in Bungou to Alchemist and have been eyeing it, I’d say that experiencing it at the very least would be worth your time. If you have zero Japanese language skill, don’t worry, there is the Bungou to Alchemist English wikia that would be a great help for you (and that could use your help in enriching the wikia, as well!). As for me, personally, I think I’ll have another game I’m going to dedicate my time constantly to, beginning this year.
Note: This review is written using terms translated by the fandom found in Bungou to Alchemist wikia. I’d like to thank the wikia contributors for that.
Author: Roti Susu
Roti Susu here! An aspiring writer who has spent more than half of her life actively writing in various fandoms. Currently living in Japan as a student, I'm a fujoshi who enjoys karaoke, watching a wide range of anime, reading manga and playing RPG games, and am also very much into seiyuu.